Swiss painter and graphic artist Paul Klee was born in 1879. He grew up in a musical family and, after much hesitation, decided to pursue a career in art instead of music. In 1900, he attended the Munich Academy, where he studied under Franz von Stuck. Klee later toured Italy where he was greatly influenced by Early Christian and Byzantine art.
Klee’s earliest works were mostly pen-and-ink drawings and etchings, which combined satirical, grotesque and surreal elements. These early works reveal the influence of James Ensor and Francisco de Goya, both of whom Klee admired greatly. Some of his best-known etchings, dating from 1903 include “Virgin in a Tree” and “Two Men Meeting, Each Believing the Other to Be of Higher Rank”. The peculiar titles of these works are characteristic of Klee and lend to his works an added dimension of meaning.
Klee married pianist Lili Stumpf in 1906 and they settled in Munich, which was an important center, at the time, for avant-garde art. Also during 1906, he exhibited his etchings for the first time. He joined “Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider), an expressionist group that contributed largely to the development of abstract art. Klee visited Tunisia in 1914 with Macke and Louis Molliet and was overwhelmed by the intense light there, which inspired him to create compositions of great color.
After WWI, he taught at the Bauhaus School where his friend Kandinsky was also a member of the faculty. In 1931, Klee began teaching at Dusseldorf Akademie, but was dismissed by the Nazis who deemed his work as “degenerate”. In 1933, Klee went to Switzerland where he came down with the disease, scleroderma, which eventually killed him in 1940.